What a weekend that was! The BTCC’s highly anticipated return was welcomed with open arms this past weekend, as thousands of spectators lined the grassy banks of the Brands Hatch circuit, all keenly waiting for their favourite drivers to battle it out on race day. But who would take the spoils in the opening weekend?
Saturday saw a tense, nail-biting qualifying session for pretty much every driver up and down the pit lane. Rain would cause delays and ever changing track conditions. Of course, one thing that was equal for everyone was the “success ballast.” No points scored yet meaning equal weight for all. A pure fight in terms of performance creating possibly the most important pole position of the year.
After everything was said and done it was a surprising pole for Eurotech man Jeff Smith. 2016 Brands Hatch winner Tom Ingram would complete the front row and the two Halfords Yuasa racing Hondas of Gordon Shedden and Mat Neal would line up just behind.
Lights out for race one of the day saw drama from the get-go. Contact between the fast-starting Colin Turkington and the slower Mat Neal saw them both out of the running before even reaching Paddock Hill Bend. No such troubles for Tom Ingram however as he stormed ahead despite feeling under the weather.
A short safety car period would follow whilst the two former champions were cleared from the grid. Once the race restarted it didn’t take long for Shedden to pass Smith and move up into P2. Adam Morgan in the Mercedes A-Class would also quickly follow through thus completing the podium. Pole man Smith was forced into the pits after a wheel nut failure—not the start to the year he was hoping for. Ingram though proved his worth and claimed another stunning victory, mirroring what he did this time last year.
The drama didn’t just stay in race one—this is the BTCC after all, drama is its middle name.
This time for polesitter Ingram and an electrical fault with his Toyota Avensis meant he struggled to move away for the formation laps. He did however eventually get it going and regained his position. The grid lined up and out came a yellow flag just in front of Ingram. Confusion struck and the start was aborted. The cars were send around for another formation lap. By the regulations Ingram should now have to start at the back of the grid but this was missed and he lined up on pole. The stewards decided he would then have to take a drive through penalty.
All set then and when the lights went out, drama followed once again. Another former champion in strife, Jason Plato’s Subaru wrecked up against the barrier after what seemed like an identical incident to that of Turkington and Neal in race one. With debris and a stranded car littering the track there was only one choice and that was for a red flag stoppage. Cars would be reset and the grid reformed; good news for Ingram, as this took his penalty away.
A shortened race distance meant the racing would be harder and faster right up to the chequered flag. A storming start for BMW new boy Andrew Jordan saw him jump positions straight away. His BMW team mates Rob Collard and Colin Turkington also had impressive races with Rob taking a podium behind eventual race winner Shedden and ill-feeling Tom Ingram. Turkington managed to race his way brilliantly up into the top ten from the back of the grid.
Rob Austin was the man who was picked out for the reverse grid pole position, only for it to be taken away. Rob was deemed to have had overtaken Andrew Jordan under yellow flags resulting in him being disqualified from race two and losing his fourth place finish. Pole would then land with the returning Tom Chilton in his brand new Vauxhall Astra. Josh Cook and Andrew Jordan would line up just behind, all looking to take victory early in the season.
Lights out and another storming start for Jordan in the BMW, no looking back as he stormed past Cook and Chilton to take the lead. Mat Jackson in the Motorbase Ford Focus found himself skirting through the gravel as he lost grip on the outside of Chilton. It didn’t take long for Turkington to find himself further up the field and right up behind his team mate Rob Collard, team orders seemingly in place and the lighter car of Turkington was allowed through into third place. Colin was on fire taking huge chunks of time out of the leading pair. He made short order of getting past the Vauxhall and quickly set about Jordan. A close, exciting battle between the new team mates had everyone on the edge of their seats. Colin wasn’t going to try anything silly and risk losing a 1-2 finish and followed Jordan home. A great way for BMW and WSR to kick off their 2017 campaign. Tom Chilton would hang on to take third a dream result for the new Vauxhall team.
Personally I couldn’t think of a better way to open this year’s BTCC, we had action even in qualifying. We are definitely in for fireworks this year and already I’m looking forward to Donington where it will happen all over again. Who knows what will happen, three new winners? Subaru finding their form? Or some other surprise, whatever it is, it surely will leave us breathless.
BTCC returns at Donington Park Circuit on the 15th & 16th of April.
After the tarmac and ice of Monte Carlo, the snow in the forests of Sweden and last time out on the gravel roads, high in the mountains around Leon, Mexico, the fourth round of this year’s World Rally Championship comes to the Island of Corsica! Famously known for its twists and turns (apparently, it’s got 10,000 corners) we’ll get to see the new generation of faster world rally cars for the first time on a sealed surface. Okay, Monte is tarmac as well, but with the ice and snow there, it’s quite different!
This year, Tour de Corse features ten stages. Doesn’t sound much I hear you say? Well, what this event is about is quality. This year sees the crews attack 316.80km’s.
Just a reminder of the top ten last year, which saw Seb win for the first time on the streets of Corsica.
01 Ogier (VW) 4h 07m 17.0s
02 Neuville +46.4s
03 Mikkelsen (VW) +1m 10.0s
04 Latvala (VW) +1m 35.6s
05 Breen +2m 18.6s
06 Paddon +2m 36.1s
07 Sordo +3m 06.9s
08 Camilli +4m 53.9s
09 Østberg +5m 37.7s
10 Tänak +6m 26.6s
All of the teams have been testing on the island recently and are fully prepared for the challenges that will confront them.
So, lets from the crews ahead of the 60th running of this classic event.
Sébastien Ogier said:
“We’ve had a nice few weeks since Rally Mexico – combining work with time at home – and now we’re ready to tackle the Tour de Corse. It was nice to spend some time with my family and to enjoy some skiing out on the slopes, but we also had a good test to find the best set-up for what are very unique stages in Corsica.
“We’re back to asphalt and I had a good feeling with the Fiesta in Monte-Carlo, but this event offers a completely different surface which demands a slightly different approach. Working with the team, we were able to explore a lot of different settings with the dampers and centre-differential which I hope will see us well placed to challenge for another strong result next week.
“We’ve seen some very close battles this year, and I expect that to continue. We’ll certainly be doing our best to be in the battle, and the ultimate goal will be to come out on top. It won’t be easy, but the Tour de Corse never is. Even if the route remains very similar to last year, this rally is always a big challenge!”
Ott Tänak said:
“Next week’s Tour de Corse will be the biggest test of the year so far, but we’ve done a lot to improve ourselves and await the challenge.
“It’s an event that I’ve not really clicked with in the past, but to be honest I had the same feeling about Rallye Monte-Carlo. That worked out really well for us so if we remain focused and motivated, anything is possible and we could find ourselves in contention for a positive result.
“That’s always our goal and we always want to deliver the best result we possibly can. The Fiesta felt really good in Monte and we’ve done a lot of work in testing since then. Last week we completed close to 500 test kilometres, so hopefully that all pays off next week.
“But at the same time, I know just how challenging this event is. The stages are so narrow and twisty and there is something happening all the time. There really is no margin for error and we’re going to have to remain calm and focused from the very start.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“The Tour de Corse is a real technical challenge but I think that’s what I like about it. We’ve had some really good results there and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this year.
“It’s a unique event and there’s actually quite a lot of variation amongst the stages. Some are surprisingly smooth, but then there are those which are typically Corsican with abrasive Tarmac that twists through the mountains.
“It’s all about adapting to the conditions but at this time of year, and with the stages being so long, it’s possible to be faced with dry Tarmac and wet Tarmac on the same stage. Like in Monte-Carlo, we could find ourselves looking for the package that provides the best compromise.
“When we had dry Tarmac in Monte, our pace was really good and that gives us a big positive to build on. We had a test working of different set-ups last week and it felt pretty good. It’s an event that you can never predict, but there’s no reason for us not to feel fairly optimistic so let’s see what happens.”
Hayden Paddon said:
“I am determined that Corsica will be the real start of my 2017 season. I feel confident in myself and I’ve been working hard to prepare for the first WRC tarmac event of the year. Taking part in Rallye Sanremo will give me the chance to adjust to the driving and pace notes on that surface. Corsica is a difficult event, the toughest tarmac rally on the calendar in my opinion, but I am really looking forward to it. We are ready to put a good performance.”
Thierry Neuville commented:
“Tour de Corse is a famous and historic rally. It’s also an event that Nicolas and I have won back in 2011 – when it was part of the IRC – so we remember what it is like to go there and perform. I thought we did well there last year especially, finishing second. The stages were just lovely, so we are looking forward to getting back there. Mexico was a really important result for us after the competitive but frustrating first rounds of the season. We want to build on that podium – and Corsica is a great place to do just that.”
Dani Sordo said: “Corsica is our first experience of a proper tarmac rally this season, so I am excited to have the chance to show what both we and the car are capable of. The setting of the rally is one of the most spectacular on the calendar, with the route taking us through the mountains and the forests- it really is a great event to take part in. Our performances so far this year have been pretty consistent but now is the time to step up our game – and bring ourselves even closer to the front.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“For sure, we won in Mexico, but the Tour de Corse is a completely different kettle of fish. For me, this rally is the ultimate challenge on tarmac. Last year, I really enjoyed the stages and I would’ve been in contention for the win had I not made a minor mistake. I can’t say that I come into the rally full of confidence, but I’m very pleased with the work done in testing. We have a good car, with consistent handling. In the rally itself, we’ll see if we are close to our full potential. I can’t wait to get started, I’m expecting it to be very close at the front.”
Number of appearances at the event: 4
Best result: 4th (2015)
“I was surprised to learn that I’m the team’s most experienced driver at this rally! It’s true that I know the Tour de Corse very well and I really love racing here. There are some similarities with conditions in Ireland, like the unpredictable weather and the uneven surface of the roads, which are sometimes in poor condition… Last year, I had a good feeling on my first tarmac rally in a WRC. This year, I hope I’ll be able to put together a series of stages with a good level of confidence. It really is all about confidence with these new cars! If I can manage to do that, then we should secure a good result.”
Number of appearances at the event: 5
Best result: 4th (2013/ERC)
“Like Monte-Carlo or Finland, the Tour de Corse is one of the WRC’s unmissable rounds. I don’t have particularly fond memories from my appearance here in 2015. It was hell on earth with all the rain! I therefore still see myself as a rookie and I know that my lack of experience may be difficult to overcome. But I’ll be giving it 100% to try and secure the best result possible. Testing helped me to fine tune my driving on tarmac. The C3 WRC handles a little bit like a track racing car.”
Number of appearances at the event: 2
Best result: 11th (2015)
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“Corsica is a special event for me: when I won there, it meant so much to me because for Finns it was always a difficult place, after the accident with Henri Toivonen in 1986, and as a nation we never used to do very well there. Now I think it is different, and of course rallying is a lot safer. We had a very good test completing 380 kilometres over two days, with one day on narrow and bumpy roads and the second day on fast and abrasive roads. On the rally, we will have both, so I think we found a good set-up between those two conditions, trying a few different damper settings. We already have an idea about the potential of the car on asphalt after Monte-Carlo, and my feeling with the car now is much better than it was after the test for Monte. However, our rivals will be very strong, as we saw already on all the rallies so far, so we take nothing for granted. We are just staying focused on our task of improving the car with every rally. Up to now, that objective is being met, so I am happy.”
Juho Hänninen said:
“I feel so much better now than I did before so I am looking forward to Corsica: it feels good to be back on Tarmac. I have only done the rally once before and that was a long time ago, although I also did the recce last year. So, I have been relying a lot on the advice from Jari-Matti about how to set up the car and this is working very well. To me, the car actually feels quite similar to what we had in Monte-Carlo, but that is good as I had a very nice feeling with the car there. The main difference in Corsica is the tyres, so we have been learning how to get the best out of them, especially for the long stages. Mexico showed that if you persist you can have a good result even if the circumstances are against you and that is also a little bit the philosophy of Toyota this year: we are going to keep trying to make the car better and better.”
So, these are the stages that await the crews. The itinerary is 96% identical to last year’s event, which was held in October.
I’d say that Friday is the most challenging day, as there is no midday service, just a tyre fitting stop. It would be very easy to make a mistake and cost yourself a lot of time or even retirement from the event and then any hope of scoring points.
With the pace that Thierry has shown on asphalt, I’d say he should be the one to watch for the victory, but we know how strong Seb is, and he won this rally last year. M-Sport are also very capable of building a quick car for this surface. Witness Elfyn and Dan leading this rally two years ago, and getting their best result with second place behind Jari-Matti in the end.
Speaking of him, he’s had his best start to a season for a while and has really come into his own at the new Toyota team. If the car is up to it, then I can see him getting a podium.
Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall drove Rallye Sanremo last weekend in their first event together and scored a very positive second place behind the wheel of an i20 R5 car. Tarmac is a surface that Hayden has been working hard to get the pace right.
During Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle’s part season last year, they performed well at this event, but a puncture during one of the stages put paid to his fight for the lead. He subsequently had an accident, which put him out of the points. He set some quick times though, getting some great experience for this year.
Any driver could be on the podium, so let’s enjoy the event and see what happens!
2017 season heads to the start line with over half the grid set to do battle for overall honours
The Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the fastest single marque GT racing championship in the UK, will begin its 15th season at Brands Hatch on 1 / 2 April with over half the field racing for overall glory in the Pro category. The battles throughout the 22 car grid will stretch across 15 rounds and eight race weekends.
The anticipation of a hotly contested season, headlined by a round in support of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is fuelled by an exceptionally talented and experienced grid. Over half the competitors are ranked in the Pro category, and of those, half again have already won at least one championship in the course of their careers.
Best placed to cause a surprise is a quartet of Porsche Carrera Cup GB Rookies who will be looking to make waves amongst the established Pro contenders. Fresh from his Ginetta GT4 Supercup title, Tom Wrigley from Chirk has already been making the most of the pre-season with IN2 Racing. His 2016 challenger and fellow race winner, Londoner Jamie Orton (Redline Racing), will be resuming their battle in 2017 as both adapt to the rear-engined 911 GT3 Cup.
Established endurance champion and race winner Ross Wylie from Dumfries will return to single marque racing, bringing with him a new team, Slidesports. The partnership began earlier in Wylie’s career and resumed recently with a successful one-off endurance race with the team in a Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
After rising through the single seater ranks to the heights of GP2 and most recently winning races in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, Tio Ellinas is making the switch to sports car racing for 2017 with JTR. Already a winner with JTR in seasons gone by, the Cypriot star brings with him Formula One experience and undoubted race-winning potential as the season unfolds.
Leading the charge of the returnees is reigning champion Dan Cammish (Redline Racing) from Leeds. After taking the record in 2016 for most wins in a season – 12 from 16 starts – the 2015 and 2016 champion will face his toughest challenge yet. Graduating to the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup for 2017, Cammish will have to miss rounds eight and nine at Snetterton from his concurrent Porsche Carrera Cup GB campaign due to a clash of dates.
First among those looking to capitalise on this will be Cammish’s closest challenger from 2016, Bristol’s Dino Zamparelli. Launching his 2017 campaign with JTR, Zamparelli will be reunited with former coach Nick Tandy and will race alongside the second-placed Rookie of 2016, Lewis Plato. Plato, from Billericay, showed strong pace in his first season and is ideally placed to convert that into results for his second.
Another driver with championship winning potential is Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2016 / 2017 Scholar Charlie Eastwood from Belfast. Buoyed by taking the 2016 Rookie title and his first race win, Eastwood tasted victory over the winter in a dominant one-off race with the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. Also successfully chasing the winter sun, and off-season experience, was Redline Racing team mate and 2016 podium finisher Tom Oliphant from Leamington Spa. Oliphant made a name for himself in his debut season with a series of fearless overtaking manoeuvres and plans to return stronger than ever.
Joining this top trio at Redline Racing and relishing a step up into the Pro category for 2017 are Edinburgh-based brothers Euan and Dan McKay. Both showed strong pace in their debut seasons, taking first and second in the 2016 Pro-Am1 category respectively, and often raced comfortably inside the top 10.
However, the Pro-Am1 category will maintain its competitive nature with a similar split of newcomers and returnees. Alex Martin (Pro-Am1) returns for the first time since racing the ‘Type 997’ GT3 Cup in 2011, joining championship stalwart and father Rupert Martin (Pro-Am2) at Team Parker Racing.
Alex will undoubtedly feature in the category title race, as will Justin Sherwood (Team Parker Racing) as he looks to build on his seven Pro-Am1 podium finishes in 2016. Another podium finisher, Peter Jennings, returns with G-Cat Racing, while experienced racer Graeme Mundy steps up to a full campaign in the category with Team Parker Racing.
A new team and driver will be joining the Pro-Am2 competition, Welch Motorsport and Matt Telling. Telling has experience of the ‘Type 991’ 911 GT3 Cup from endurance outings, while Welch Motorsport is a veteran of TOCA weekends. The second category newcomer is David Fairbrother, who graduates from the Cayman GT4 Clubsport with Slidesports.
Looking to make the most of their Pro-Am2 experience will be Shamus Jennings (G-Cat Racing), Iain Dockerill (Asset Advantage Racing) and Peter Parsons (The Race Car Centre), all three category podium finishers in 2016. However, favourite to take the honours remains Peter Kyle-Henney (IN2 Racing), the Chopard Fastest Lap winner of 2016 looking to go one step higher after his second place finishes in the category championship in 2016 and 2014.
At the first official tests of the season, on Silverstone’s National circuit and at Donington Park, times looked tighter than ever with fractions separating each car. While the Pro category returnees will undoubtedly go into Friday free practice at Brands Hatch with the advantage of experience, several factors could see that rapidly eroded by the newcomers. An increased tyre allowance (up to three new sets per weekend and a maximum of 24 over the course of the season) may affect the dynamic of qualifying, while points are no longer awarded for pole position or fastest lap.
In both Pro-Am1 and Pro-Am2 categories, times were hard to monitor as various Pro category drivers swapped in and out of cars to help team mates with their pre-season preparations.
Rounds one and two will take place on Sunday 2 April at 10.00 (rolling start) and 15.40 (standing start) respectively, with live coverage of round two on ITV4. Follow the battles at @CarreraCupGB on Twitter and @carreracupgb on Instagram.
In an attempt to improve the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, series‘ governing body is under restructuration and appointed Gerhard Berger as its new boss.
Former Formula 1 driver and team co-owner Berger will replace Hans Werner Aufrecht, who led ITR for over 30 years. The Austrian will return to the managerial role for the first time since he left the FIA single-seater commission at the end of 2014.
Commenting on his new role, Berger said: “I started my motor-racing career in touring car racing and always followed DTM with a lot of interest. DTM is a top-class product with independent, powerful regulations, with strong manufacturers, top sponsors, important international partnerships and many fans.
This is a good starting point with great potential for the future. The first task I will focus on in the coming weeks is gaining a deeper insight into the details with the support of my colleagues. We will then use this strong basis for creating a joint strategy for the future. While doing so, I consider the further development of our international partnerships – also with regards to new manufacturers –, spectacular racing cars that also command the drivers’ respect as well as a format combining both sport and entertainment as particularly important”.
Although Berger himself ran in only one DTM race (8th place in Zolder 1985), he is connected to the series through his nephew Lucas Auer who will spend his third season as a Mercedes-AMG driver this year.
All three manufacturers of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters came to Vallelunga for a three-day test. It was the first time the cars were present in the fully homologated 2017 spec.
Audi Sport brought to Italy Mattias Ekström and Jamie Green. It was Ekström who gave the new RS 5 DTM first public laps and was very pleased with the experience:
“We tried out a lot of different things: short stints, long runs, qualifying simulations and many different set-up variants. The new DTM cars are definitely more demanding in terms of driving skills. Plus, finding a perfect set-up compromise for the softer tires and the changed aerodynamics is a great challenge. The season is going to be packed with excitement for sure!” Ekstrom commented.
Both Audi drivers covered 2121 kilometres between them.
Mercedes-AMG’s drivers Robert Wickens, Gary Paffett and Edoardo Mortara posted 518 laps between them, equating to 2116 km. The Stuttgart brand focused mainly on a better understanding of the new-for-2017 softer compound tyres from series’ supplier Hankook.
Head of the Mercedes-AMG’s programme Ulrich Fritz commented:
“The hard work has paid off so far with plenty of kilometres posted and data collected during two successful weeks of testing. Still, our work is far from over. We must now evaluate all the info, especially with regard to the new generation of tyres, and draw the right conclusions before final testing in Hockenheim.”
BMW Motorsport decided not to share much information about their participation in testing. The Bavarian brand brought to the track Maxime Martin and Tom Blomqvist, who are understood to have spent the three days understanding the behaviour of the new M4 DTM, which under the new rules was given more power and less downforce than its predecessor.
The last round of collective testing will take place in Hockenheim on 3-6 April. The same track will host the season opener on 6-7 May.
It’s almost time to set the grid for the first qualifying round of the year and then wait for lights out on the Sunday. Yes, that’s right, BTCC is back! And it’s looking better than ever. But what should you be watching out for?
This year sees a jam-packed grid of 32 drivers. 16 of which are already race winners in the series. This is by far the strongest field we have seen for a long time on the touring car scene. Between the winning drivers they share a breath-taking 329 victories! So prepare for the races to be hard fought and the action to be closer than ever. Will we see a runaway favourite for the championship or will we get a thriller that goes down to the wire?
Something that is for certain is that we can absolutely rely on the fireworks between Jason Plato and Matt Neal. Their fights in touring cars have become stuff of legend, epic championship battles, brutal overtakes on track and even the odd bit of confrontation in the paddock area. The Subaru of Plato is now in its second year and will be keen to show that it is the right car for the job.
Honda and Team Dynamics always seem to get stronger every year, no matter whether they are running a Civic tourer or the classic hatchback. BTCC isn’t just about those two though, oh no. Ask Collin Turkington, Gordon Shedden, Tom Ingram and the returning Tom Chilton. All just as eager to provide the action on race day and walk away with the silverware.
Speaking of Chilton, he hasn’t returned alone to the BTCC, Vauxhall are back as a works team. Partnering up with Power Maxed racing in the new Astra. The car looked resplendent today at Donnington, standing out in the white, black and yellow livery. West Surrey racing also have something to smile about as they managed to bag a works deal with BMW. With the main man Turkington back in the driving seat they will be battling hard to reclaim the title after coming so close with Sam Tordoff last year. It’s the same car with new faces over at Triple eight, Árón Taylor-Smith and Daniel Lloyd will front the charge in the MG’s.
My dark horse for this year though has to be Mat Jackson in the Motorbase Ford Focus. If they can get the car to perform in the early rounds then they will stand much more of a chance of having a shot at the title. Something that hasn’t really happened for the last few years. But no doubt they will be there or there about.
Whatever happens this year I can guarantee we will have a cracker of a season. Expect the racing to be heated right from lights out at Brands Hatch indy all the way through to the finale when they return to face the GP circuit. So, who’s ready?
Today was the day the drivers and teams gathered at Donington Park for the BTCC media day. Smiling faces and an air of anticipation swept across the circuit as a 32 car grid was confirmed for what is by far the most exciting and action packed touring car series on the planet.
Gordon Shedden has again confirmed that he will not be carrying the defending champion #1 and will instead stick with his #52. He is on course to equal the record of Andy Rouse this season with four titles, but with a grid so full of experience, talent and young enthusiasm it is going to be a big ask.
Malaysian squad OD Racing will enter an Audi R8 LMS GT3 in this season’s inaugural Blancpain GT Series Asia campaign, with Mitch Gilbert confirmed as its first driver.
Founded in 2014, the team has previously contested the Asian Le Mans Series and GT Asia categories with McLaren and Lamborghini machinery. However, that all changes this year thanks to Blancpain GT Series Asia’s partnership with the Audi R8 LMS Cup, which allows teams to run the same car in both championships at the same venue a matter of weeks apart.
Indeed, such favourable logistics and opportunities to gather additional data using the same car and Pirelli tyres played a major role in OD Racing’s decision to join the championship with Audi.
Gilbert, meanwhile, previously competed in European F3 and the Formula 1-supporting GP3 Series before successfully switching to GT racing at the start of 2016. The Malaysian-born Australian finished third in last season’s Porsche Carrera Cup Asia standings and also claimed a class podium at December’s Motul Sepang 12 Hours.
The 22-year-old will contest both the 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup and Blancpain GT Series Asia campaigns with OD Racing, who will announce Gilbert’s co-driver for the latter championship in due course.
OD Racing director Cornelius Ee views this season as a fresh start for the team after a tough 2016.
“We hoped to finish 2016 with a better result than what we ultimately achieved, but that is racing and it was a steep learning curve for us,” he said. “For 2017, however, we have secured what we hope to be a race-winning car with the Audi R8 LMS GT3, and we have a talented line-up of drivers who I’m sure can deliver results for our team. The whole team is feeling re-energised and we are all committed to bring home great results this year for ourselves and our partners.”
OD Racing becomes the second Audi team confirmed for this season’s inaugural Blancpain GT Series Asia campaign after Phoenix Racing Asia announced its two-car programme in January. They’re joined on the GT3 grid by the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, McLaren, Aston Martin and Lamborghini.
The team will test its new Audi at Sepang International Circuit on March 13/14 ahead of Blancpain GT Series Asia’s opening round of the season there on April 8/9.
2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia Schedule
April 8/9 Sepang, Malaysia
May 20/21 Chang International Circuit, Thailand
June 24/25 Suzuka, Japan
August 19/20 Fuji Speedway, Japan
September 23/24 Shanghai, China
October 21/22 Zhejiang, China
Jost Files took no prisoners at Bahrain International Circuit: with an authoritative double win at the wheel of the Lap57 Honda Civic, he secured the first edition of the TCR Middle East Series’s title. The Brit also becomes the first driver to have two different TCR titles under this belt, adding this one to that of TCR Germany won last year.
Liqui Moly Team Enstler took the Teams’ honours, but there was some disappointment among the German team’s members, as Brandon Gdovic missed the title by only 5 points. The American collected two nice second positions, but it was not enough. Luca Engstler, who also was in contention to win the tile, was third in Race 1, but had to retire in Race 2 with a broken driveshaft.
Italy’s 16-year-old Giacomo Altoè continued his steady learning process and took good results (one fourth and one third) at the wheel of Team Engstler’s third Volkswagen Golf. The Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Davit Kajaia also proved fast, but lacked reliability and could not finish in any of the races.
The Bahrain event was a successful ending to the first edition of the TCR Middle Series, which has attracted great interest in the region.
Race 1 – Files’ win paves the way to exciting finale
The first edition of the TCR Middle East Series will live this afternoon a breath-taking Race 2, as three drivers will go into it fighting for the title and being split by only 5 points.
By clinching an authoritative win in Race 1, Josh Files, at the wheel of the Lap57 Honda Civic, has reduced to 2 points his gap from the series leader Brandon Gdovic, who took a last-lap second place from his Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s teammate Luca Engstler, now third in the standings, but only 5 points behind Gdovic.
Race 1: in an unusually cloudy morning at Bahrain International Circuit, delivered a first big surprise even before the start, as the Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Davit Kajaia, had to pull out from the first row of the grid with a broken driveshaft.
Files took the lead from the start and built progressively a sufficient gap, although his race was far from easy: “It was a very hard race on the tyres”, explained the Brit,“there is nothing left of them and in the final laps, I had no grip, no traction, no nothing.”
Luca Engstler led the charge of the Golf cars for the entire race, but his efforts took a toll on his tyres; in the last lap, Brandon Gdovic, who had adopted a more conservative approach with regard to tyre consumption, was able to pass the young German for second. Both drivers admitted there was nothing to do against the Honda in this first race of the day.
Giacomo Altoè, on the third car of Liqui Moly Team Engstler, had to stop in the penultimate lap after a sudden drop of power, which ruined an otherwise consistent race.
Race 2 – Files secures title with another win
Josh Files was crowned the first TCR Middle East Series champion. The British driver of the Lap 57 Honda Civic left no chances to his opponents by winning also an eventful Race 2.
Both Luca Engstler (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf) and Davit Kajaia (Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta) tried hard to challenge Josh, but both had to retire, leaving the podium to the other pair of Liqui Moly Team Engstler drivers, Brandon Gdovic and Giacomo Altoè, who ran together the entire race, and secured the Teams’ title for the German squad.
Altoè, pole sitter on the reversed grid, almost stalled at the start, which saw some drops of rain, and Files overtook everybody before first corner to take the lead, with Kajaia keeping second only for a few corners, as he got passed by Engstler before the end of first lap. The group remained quite compact until Engstler suddenly slowed down (lap 4) and had to stop on the straight, prompting the safety car to be deployed.
The race resumed on lap 8, becoming a double battle between Files and Kajaia on one hand and Gdovic and Altoè on the other, but progressively, Files managed to pull away up to the chequered flag, while Kajaia stopped in the pits on lap 19, with severe understeer. Gdovic and Altoè finished their duel in the same order to complete the podium.
Quotes from the podium finishers in both races:
Josh Files (1st in both races): “It’s great to take the championship with a double win. Things may look easy from the outside, but they were not. The entire weekend was about tyres, and I am very happy that we took the decision to save new tyres for the races. In both, the tyres were completely dead at the end. Otherwise, the car performed very well, although we could never solve the misfiring problem we had throughout the weekend.”
Brandon Gdovic (2nd in both races): “It has been a frustrating weekend for me. We were able to improve the behaviour of the car and I am happy of the way I managed the tyres, but the Honda was absolutely unreachable.”
Lucas Engstler (3rd in Race 1): “I am quite disappointed. Not only there was nothing we could do against the Honda, but I also had twice a broken driveshaft, in Qualifying and in Race 2 and this also penalized me a lot.”
Giacomo Altoè (3rd in Race 2): “It was a positive weekend and I learnt a lot. I am relatively satisfied with my performance and of having being able to keep the pace of my team mate Gdovic in both races. It’s just a pity I made such a silly mistake at the start of Race 2, when I released to quickly the clutch and almost stalled.”
After rising through the single seater ranks to the heights of GP2 and most recently winning races in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, Tio Ellinas (Larnaca, Cyprus) is making the switch to sports car racing for 2017 with the Porsche Carrera Cup GB and JTR.
Echoing the team’s own move for 2017, Ellinas will be competing a 911 GT3 Cup for the first time as part of a three-car line up for JTR in their debut sports car season. Along with team mates Dino Zamparelli and Lewis Plato, Ellinas is a significant addition to an already strong field of Pro category drivers who now account for a half of the total grid.
Ellinas won races with JTR in the 2010 British Formula Ford championship, before going on to win races in Formula Renault 2.0, GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5. Despite a Formula One test and points-scoring GP2 debut, Ellinas is realistic about the season ahead:
“It will be a completely new challenge for me as I begin my first season in sports cars. I had a really positive test with Porsche at Silverstone in November which is what started things moving, and now I just can’t wait to get back in a car.
“I know the competition will be tough, but I also know from past experience with JTR that the guys will provide me with a great car – so perhaps I can fight for wins and possibly challenge for the championship later in the year. Why not!?
“This is a big move for me that I hope will lead to a long career in the sport. I want to thank the team, and also personally Nick Tandy, for believing in my abilities and putting me in the car for this season.”
Team Principal, Nick Tandy, has every confidence in his new signing and the strength of the team going into the season:
“We’ve known Tio a long time and we’re delighted to welcome him back to the team. He’s won a lot of races and has an enviable track record in single seaters, but we’re all ‘eyes open’ to the challenge as he adapts to a completely different style of car.
“The first official test isn’t far away, but back in November Tio proved he didn’t need long to get up to a really good pace in the car. Along with Dino and Lewis, we couldn’t have hoped for a stronger line up in our first season of sports cars.”
James MacNaughton, Motorsport Manager, Porsche Cars GB, commented:
“To have a driver of Tio’s experience and with his track record join the Porsche Carrera Cup GB is a proud moment for us. We’ve worked hard to make sure the championship appeals to all our competitors in every category, and it’s something which can be a difficult balance to achieve.
“Looking at the strength of our Pro drivers, along with the continued support of our Pro-Am1 and Pro-Am2 competitors, we must be getting it right. The field for our 15th season looks fiercely competitive and we can’t wait to get going.”
Ellinas is the 10th confirmed Pro category driver so far, and will be joining Tom Wrigley (IN2 Racing), Jamie Orton (Redline Racing) and Matt Telling (Welch Motorsport) in the Rookie championship.
Images courtesy of and with permission by Porsche Carrera Cup GB